One of Hood River’s most venerable wind sports retailers is preparing to open a new chapter focused on a new ride — e-bikes.
Big Winds has broken ground on a 500-square-foot expansion at the north side of its shop at 207 Front St. The expansion will allow the shop’s owners to launch a separate retail brand — Oregon E-Bikes — and create a space for sales and rentals of battery-assisted bikes.
Matt Morrow and Jodie Gates will run the e-bike operation. They, along with T.J. Gulizia, Jason Watts and Eddie Patricelli are on a path to ownership at Big Winds, taking over from founders Steve Gates and Doug Gallant.
Morrow says Gates and his wife, Ginnie, were looking for a bit easier way to cycle around the Hood’s hilly terrain. Friends suggested they look into e-bikes.
They looked locally, and didn’t find much interest. They then checked in Portland. Same story.
“He got one, and absolutely loved it,” Morrow says. “That’s one thing at Big Winds, no matter what different outdoors activities we pursue, we all share a love of biking.”
Based on the dearth of support in the region’s bike community, Gates saw an opportunity. Morrow dove into the subject, attending the big Interbike trade show, testing different e-bikes, meeting manufacturers.
“Any time someone gets an e-bike, they come back with an e-bike smile,” Morrow says. “It’s fun.”
He says the Big Winds crew saw the chance to serve a different market, beyond wind sports devotees.
“It’s good, too, to help people get out of their cars, reduce traffic, get more open to their friends and neighbors along our streets,” Morrow says.
Bikes come with the drive at the rear hub, or connected to the pedal crank. Giving a tour of one bike, Morrow showed how the rider could adjust the power assist up or down, depending on their level of fitness and the terrain.
“It’s not like a motorcycle, but it can help you get up a hill without getting all sweated up,” he says.
One featured brand, the Vintage Electric, sports a range of 36 miles in street mode, and can recharge its battery in two hours — well before it’s time to return home from the office.
Morrow and Jodie Gates say they hope to have the new space open by April 22. Bikes, which are currently on display and for sale from the existing store, sell from $1,800 up to $5,995.
Before buying, curious cyclists can pop in and rent a trial ride.